Party Game: Bowls!

About two years ago, our friend Rose introduced us to a party game we call Bowls! As far as I know, it’s not commercially available, although someone reading this may know of similar games (if so, please leave a comment). This game works very well with large groups of people (we’ve played it with as few as six and as many as 18).

Game Type: Party–a mixture of Catchphrase, Memory, and Charades
Items Needed: A large bowl, a fistful of pencils or pens, and several slips of paper (about Post-It note size).

Setup: Everyone sits in a circle. You’ll need an even number of players. The person sitting directly across from you is your partner. Each person takes a slip of paper and a pencil and writes down five nouns. They may be common nouns (dog, chair) or proper nouns (Darth Vader, Pope John Paul II). Fold your slip in half and set it in the bowl.

BowlsRound 1: The first player takes a slip out of the bowl. Start a 30-second timer. In the time allotted, the person must get his/her partner to say all five nouns on the slip in order. The player may only use words to coax the partner into saying the correct nouns. If the player accidentally lets a word slip which is part of the noun, drop the slip and grab another one. No rhyming is allowed, nor is spelling the noun out, or gesturing with one’s hands. If the player’s partner gets all five nouns in order, take that slip out of the bowl. If the timer runs out before all five nouns are said, drop the slip back into the bowl. Once the timer rings, hand the bowl to the next player. Go around and around the circle until all slips are out of the bowl. Each pair of players scores one point per slip.

Round 2: Once scoring for Round 1 is complete, put all slips of paper back into the bowl. In this round, you do the same thing, with one exception. When a player is trying to get his or her partner to guess the nouns on the slip of paper, he or she is only allowed use two words to coax the partner into saying the word. If in round one, you said, “Um, he was the last head of the Catholic Church and he was Polish!” you would now only be allowed to say “Catholic! Polish!” If your partner does not understand the two-word clue, too bad! You’re probably out of luck this time around. Take score at the end of the round.

Round 3: Once scoring for Round 2 is complete, put all slips of paper back into the bowl. In this final round, you are not allowed to use words or sounds. Instead, you must get your partner to guess each of the five nouns in order by pantomiming that noun. So for Pope John Paul II, you might make the sign of the cross and pretend to put a mitre on your head. Once the round is complete, score each pair. The team with the most points over the three successive rounds wins. If there is a tie between two teams, share in your victory.

In our circle of friends, we have some really competitive Bowls! players (me included!). This is a fun party game, and depending on the size of your group, it will take 45-90 minutes to play. Be prepared to laugh!


5 Responses to Party Game: Bowls!

  1. Rick says:

    For a slightly shorter game or with large groups, it may be better to use 4 nouns per person instead of five. Also, we’ve developed some ‘house rules’ on the nouns that can be used because of certain choices made by certain people :ahem:Russ:ahem:.
    – Nouns can be 2 words long (Cherry Pie, Ford Mustang, etc.) unless it’s a proper noun (Mary Tyler Moore, Joan of Arc, etc.)
    – The noun must be something that most of the people in the room could guess. Now, maybe no-one knows your second cousin’s, roommate’s dog’s name is Rocky Beethoven. But a person could still get their teammate to say Rocky Beethoven by breaking it down into two parts.

  2. Joe says:

    Dude, deal me in for some posting. I feel like I can write a page or two . . .

  3. jdminke says:

    Bowls is kick-ass

  4. Tobi says:


    there is a commercially available version of this game called Time’s Up by Repos Productions. Instead of paper slips the game uses cards with personalities on it. In the second round you are only allowed to use a single word. But else it is quite similar.

    Tobi from Cologne

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